Literacy Theory

A PDS collaboration in secondary English has a central interest in literacy, and the development of students’ literacy abilities. Several scholars have suggested the following ideas about the social and multiple characters of literacy, its development, and its consequences. The very mechanism underlying higher mental functions is a copy from social interaction; all higher mental functions are internalized social relationships…. Even when we turn to mental [internal] processes, their nature remains quasi-social. In their own private sphere, human beings retain the functions of social interaction (p. 164).

Vygotsky, L. V. (1981). The genesis of higher mental functions. In J.V. Wertsch (Ed.) The concept of activity in Soviet psychology. Armonk, NY: Sharpe.

Some years ago I wrote some very insistent articles about the importance of discovery learning – learning on one's own, or as Piaget put it later (and I think better), learning by inventing. What I am proposing here is an extension of that idea, or better a completion. My model of the child in those days was very much in the tradition of the solo child mastering the world by representing it to himself in his own terms. In the intervening years I have come increasingly to recognize that most learning in most settings is a communal activity, a sharing of the culture. It is not just that the child must make his knowledge his own, but that he must make it his own in a community of those who share his sense of belonging to a culture. It is this that leads me to emphasize not only discovery and invention but the importance of negotiating and sharing – in a word, of joint culture creating as an object of schooling and as an appropriate step en route to becoming a member of the adult society in which one lives out one's life (p. 127).

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Literacy is not simply knowing how to read and write a particular script, but applying this knowledge for specific purposes in specific contexts of use. The nature of these practices, including of course their technological aspects, will determine the kinds of skills (consequences) associated with literacy (p. 136).

Scribner, S. & Cole, M. (1981). The psychology of literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

To call these capabilities practices is to say that an individual's ability to think is dialogically defined, that is, constituted by (a) other people in particular forms of social relationship, (b) the physical objects (utensils, tools) and symbols (words, numbers) with which the individual interacts, directly or vicariously, in doing the thinking (p. 529).

Erickson, F. (1984). School literacy, reasoning, and civility: An anthropologist's perspective. Review of Educational Research, 54(4), 525-546.

Every literacy is learnt in a specific context in a particular way and the modes of learning, the social relationships of student teacher are modes of socialization and acculturation. The student is learning cultural models of identity and personhood, not just how to decode script or to write a particular hand. If that is the case, then leaving the critical process until after they have learnt many of the genres of literacy used in that society is putting off, possibly for ever, the socialization into critical perspective (p. 140).

Street, B. (1995). Social Literacies: Critical approaches to literacy development, ethnography, and education New York: Longman.

English PDS Guidebook
Who’s Who in the PDS What is the PDS? Our PDS Mission PDS Beliefs and GoalsAn Inquiry Culture Literacy Theory PDS Roles: the Intern Intern Projects Mentor Responsibilities Consultant Responsibilities PDS Schedule and Components Goals and Activities